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DVD « My God, It's Full of Nerds!

Archive for category DVD

041/100 Whiteout (2009)

I will give credit to the filmmakers here. They identified the movies biggest asset right off the bat, and that’s Kate Beckinsale and curves. So the movie opens with what has to be one of the most gratuitous shower scenes imaginable, because the movie is set entirely in Antarctica. After Ms. Beckinsale towels off, she’s stuck in pretty ordinary murder mystery, albeit one with a more limited number of suspects than usual for this movie. Even if you include everyone on the continent, it’s the number of suspects probably isn’t in the triple digits. A body is found out on the ice, without cold weather gear. Beckinsale plays the only law enforcement officer in Anarctica, and a monster storm is closing, threatening to trap everyone for months if they don’t leave soon. So it’s a race against time, and a killer who has an agenda that appears to have something to do with a Russian plane that crashed decades before.

A movie like this really has to sell the environment as a threat, but I can’t say I ever felt like this movie did a very good job at that. The climax, where people can stay on their feet in the middle of the storm so long as they’re attached to the magic carabiner line, but pinwheel through the air the second they’re detached, is particularly fakey.

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040/100 The Day of the Triffids (1962)

The Day of the Triffids was Teresa’s pick for the “childhood trauma” movie theme. Perhaps the funniest thing about this movie when seen today, besides the unlikely seawater solution at the end, is that our “hero” Bill Manson (Howard Keel) is about the least heroic person imaginable. He’s in the hospital for an operation to save his sight, but the next morning when the rest of the populace is struck blind he shows no interest in helping anybody else, even though he was nearly blind himself. Later in the movie he leaves all the students at a girls’ school to the tender mercies of a gang of escaped convicts, and then the triffids, only saving teacher he’s hot for. Incidentally, one of the more conspicuous victims at the school is played by Carol Ann Ford, who shortly after this movie would play Susan on Doctor Who.

Oh, and perhaps the most famous scene in the movie, the lighthouse attack, is pretty funny too, because for it to happen the 10-foot tall triffid must have some how snuck by our heroes and in through the open front door, without them noticing anything. Maybe being a scientist reduces your peripheral vision.

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039/100 The Time Machine (2002)

What the heck? That’s my simple reaction to this retelling of H.G. Wells’ groundbreaking story of time travel. I think the problem is that the original story is so simple. Wells’ wasn’t, as far as I can remember, even thinking about paradoxes, but this movie has one because any self-respecting time travel story now has to have a paradox. It doesn’t add anything to the movie, other than wasting the first half hour of the movie. (And like all paradoxes, it doesn’t make sense if you think about it too much.) The future with the Eloi and the Morlocks is transformed into a comic book, with the Morlocks being lead by their own Doctor Doom, played by Jeremy Irons in what would have been a career slide for nearly any other actor, but Irons’ previous movie was Dungeons & Dragons, so his campy performance here is actually a step back towards respectability. The new Morlocks also look awful, and I’m not sure why the filmmakers allow so many closeups of the stiff, unconvincing masks.

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038/100 The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

It would perhaps be best not to dwell on the exact circumstances that resulted in me sitting in a theater showing New Moon, the second movie in what I’m supposed to believe is the “Twilight Saga,” even though all the good sagas I know of include dragons and fights and the occasional pillaging. Nothing that much fun going on here. Certainly no pillaging.

First, let me sum up the entire Twilight experience with two lines of dialogue and an unintended double entendre:

Bella: I’m coming.
Edward: I don’t want you to come.

I saw the first Twilight, and it was a bland supernatural romance, completely pointless in a world where Buffy the Vampire Slayer did and True Blood is now doing the same material so much better. The central premise of Twilight is that Bella (Kristen Stewart) is incredibly attractive to every male in the story, yet whether by design or accident, Bella is portrayed as so aggressively bland that it’s impossible to believe anyone would want to spend more than couple of minutes around her. The fact that Bella (or Stewart) can’t seems to work up the slightest bit of charm makes everything that’s going on in the movie seem like a surreal play staged for Bella’s benefit, like maybe it’s all a huge practical joke and when Bella finally gets back together with Edward he’s going to drop a bucket of pigs’ blood on her. But no, that would be interesting. Nothing interesting is allowed to happen in New Moon.

Sadly, the bad acting doesn’t stop with Bella. Almost the entire cast is bland and uninteresting. When, about 45 minutes in, a minor character delivers the first bit of funny dialogue, and does so with wit and verve, it was like finding an ice cream cone in the desert. It shouldn’t be surprising that the character dies a few scenes later, lest he say something else interesting and show up the main characters more.

Oh, and a note filmmakers: If you’re going to have a parodic fake movie in your crappy movie, make sure it isn’t far more fun than the movie it’s in. When the fake action movie Face Punch is introduced, I spent the rest of New Moon wishing I could see Face Punch. I bet stuff at least happens in Face Punch.

From what I understand New Moon is very close to the novel, but that’s not a good thing. There are moments in New Moon that look ridiculous onscreen in a way that may not have been obvious on the page. Take the scene where Bella goes running off into the woods even though some animal is killing people in the area. Bella, for reasons I can’t remember, faints in the middle of the forest, and is found by Sam, a member of the local native tribe. Bella’s father (who is also the town sheriff) is about to mount a search of the woods, and Sam, inexplicably only wearing a pair of bike shorts in the winter weather, comes walking out of the woods carrying Bella. Bella’s father runs up and says, and I quote, “Thank you, Sam.” Not, “Why the hell are you naked in the woods with my daughter, you freaking psycho!” “Thank you, Sam.” Because that’s what a sheriff and concerned father would say.

I guess the movie was rushed into production, presumably to cash in on the Twilight phenomenon before the 12-year old girls who love it so start to get interested in real boys, and probably partly because Robert Pattison’s “eternal youth” isn’t going to hold as well as a vampire’s is supposed to if the production schedule gets dragged over more than a couple of years. This particular movie was directed by Chris Weitz, who is best known for American Pie, and who showed no particular flair for fantasy in The Golden Compass, and I suspect he got the job because he was available. The movie is surprisingly flat. The only time it shows any life at all is during the brief werewolf fight about halfway through.

I really am not looking forward to the next movie if this is how the producers are going to treat the movies. And it’s not like they have an incentive to put much more care into the next one. After all, New Moon made nearly $300 million in the U.S. alone.

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037/100 Open Graves (2009)

One SyFy original movie is enough… Wait, the very next movie stars Eliza Dushku! Record!

I was robbed. I’m glad Dushku got a free trip to Spain out making this turkey, but Open Graves wasn’t that much fun to watch. Basically, the movie is a ripoff of the Final Destination movies. A group of adults acquire an antique board game that, as it turns out, is made out of a witch. Not made by a witch, mind you, but made out of the body of a witch killed during the Spanish Inquisition. Bet you weren’t expecting that! I certainly didn’t know Torquemada was sponsored by Mattel. So these people decide to play the game, and the ones that draw “death cards” die in the manner the cards predict, except the cards are written so obscurely it’s tough to see exactly what the connections are between the cards and the deaths. But I guess the important thing here was to ape Final Destination as closely as possible, so everyone dies in ludicrously unlikely accidents. The upside of playing the game is that if you win you can get a wish to come true, and in what I think is a gallant gesture, the final surviving character wishes the movie never happened. Thank you, but too late.

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036/100 House of Bones (2010)

Oh SyFy original movies, how I love you so.

House of Bones starts out well. It’s basically a parody of one of SyFy’s biggest hits, Ghost Hunters (ie, the show where people look for proof of ghosts and never find any, week after week after week). A TV ghost hunting crew investigates a house known for being haunted, though nothing has happened there since the 1950s. But when the crew arrives the doors are open and the house is in remarkably good repair for a house that should have been abandoned for decades. There’s even fresh food in the fridge! Charisma Carpenter plays a local psychic hired by the TV show to add some color commentary. As the TV crew sets up one of their number gets sucked into a wall after following an apparition into a basement. The remaining crew quickly realize that for the first time ever they’re dealing with a real haunting, and the house won’t let them out. The set-up is creepy, and Charisma Carpenter makes one of the least annoying psychics I’ve seen in this kind of movie.

While the movie starts well, towards the end there is copious evidence of rewrites, re-editing, padding, and a completely rejiggered ending. You may notice that the picture above features Corin Nemec, for example. He plays the studio-bound host of the TV program, and he doesn’t share a single shot with any of the actors. He does eventually show up at the house after a bunch of time-wasting shenanigans like arguing with a cab driver, but he stays outside and only talks to the other characters through closed doors and windows for a few minutes before getting killed, having contributed nothing to the plot. At the climax Charisma Carpenter’s character comes up with a plan to kill the house (turns out the house is the monster, not the ghosts in it), and even though everything suggests her plan should work there’s a sudden bizarre edit and, boom!, she’s randomly stabbed by another character. That character proceeds to kill everyone else, sometimes, I suspect, standing in front of a green screen showing the sets the rest of the movie was filmed on. It’s shame, because before the confuse-o-rama ending, this was a passable alternative to movies like Spirit Trap.

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035/100 The Sisterhood (1988)

After noticing that America 3000 was one of two post-apocalyptic Amazon movies Chuck Wagner made, I of course had to see the other one. The Sisterhood is a Filipino movie, and it focuses on three women with superpowers, looking for the rest of their sisterhood. Chuck Wagner plays a quasi-villain, though he’s not as bad as some of the other bad guys. The movie is not particularly memorable, but the finale is pretty funny. The three women acquire both an APC and a bunch of machine guns and fight their way into the bad guy’s fortress. They find the rest of their sisters chained to a wall, but are trapped in the room. (Amusingly, the bad guys are all wearing Vietnam era American military uniforms, surplus from some other film I assume.) Suddenly a glowing, faceless female figure appears to the sisterhood, berates the women for using guns, then transports all the women magically to freedom. Hey Goddess, you know when would have been a good time to transport your followers to safety? Before the few who were still free needed to take up the guns you hate so much just to survive.

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034/100 The Village of the Damned (1995)

You know when I realized John Carpenter might not have been the best person to direct this movie? When the mob of townspeople in a modern day California show up with actual pitchforks and torches. Seriously, where would you even find a torch today?

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033/100 Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist was the second in the “Childhood Trauma” movie night, chosen by Chasity. When she was younger her parents let her stay in the room while the movie was on TV, but covered her eyes whenever some scary happened, which was probably worse than just letting her watch it.

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032/100 The Last Castle (2001)

The Last Castle is basically an update of Cool Hand Luke set in a military prison. Robert Redford plays a disgraced general who is sent to the prison run by James Gandolfini. Soon the general realizes that Gandolfini is abusing and sometimes killing the inmates, and leads a revolt. The ending gets pretty crazy, with the inmates building a surreptitious trebuchet, molotov slingshots, a rocket launcher, and even a method of hijacking a helicopter in flight. The whole last third of the movie plays like a demo reel for Mythbusters.

My favorite thing about the movie is that Gandolfini is basically wearing the same costume as he was in In the Loop, but is playing the completely opposite character.

031/100 Crimson (1976)

There should be a special genre called “What the…?” for those European horror films that spend much more time confusing me than scaring or thrilling me. Take Crimson, for example:

- When the thief Jack (Paul Naschy, who I just don’t get as a horror star) is shot in the head during a robbery his compatriots all agree that he should be saved because he’s such a great guy, but no one wants to risk jail by taking him to a real hospital. What the..?

- Instead of taking him to a mob doctor, they take Jack to mad scientist they happen to know. What the…?

- The mad scientist has been perfecting a process to repair brains, but all he needs another brain from a donor. After a little discussion, Jack’s friends decide to steal the brain of a rival thief they hate called, by himself and others, the Sadist. What the…?

- After shooting the Sadist dead Jack’s friends decide they need to decapitate the body, so they lay it on train tracks and wait until a train goes by. What the…?

- The mad scientist has ruined hands, so his pin-up wife has to do the operation to graft the Sadist’s brain onto Jack’s. What the…?

- Everyone is surprised when Jack wakes up after the operation and starts attacking women, just like the Sadist. What the…?

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030b/100 The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

Perhaps doomed to be best known for being Heath Ledger’s last movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is another disaster behind-the-scene story for Terry Gilliam, but perhaps not as much his fault as some of his other disasters.

I guess the “What if?” here will always be, would Parnassus have been a better movie if Heath Ledger had been around to finish filming it? Though Gilliam’s films are sometimes a bit loose when it comes to plot coherence, this movie is particularly unfocused when it comes to Ledger’s character, who is apparently of central importance. He doesn’t show up until a half-hour in, and by the time the movie was over I wasn’t quite sure what his exact story was. The fantasy sequences inside the mirror are certainly stunning, but I’m still not sure what it was all in aid of.

This movie did whet my appetite for the possibility of Depp/Gilliam project, if not the previously deep-sixed Man Who Shot Don Quixote, then something new.

030a/100 Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Is this movie completely accurate to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories? No. Does it really matter? No. I mean, it wasn’t until 1939 that any filmed adaptation of Sherlock Holmes even took place in Victorian London (the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce The Hound of the Baskervilles), and even that venerable series only lasted two movies set in the past before the detective was moved, without explanation, to the modern day to fight the Nazis (Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror). Clearly, accuracy to the original stories does not a great Holmes movie make.

The new Sherlock Holmes is more of an action romp through someone’s barely-recalled memories of the Jeremy Brett TV stories. Watson (Jude Law) has only just moved out of the apartment he shared with Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), apparently putting an end to their partnership. (In more ways than one, the movie implies.) But a new case, involving a Lord Blackmore’s apparent survival of his own execution as well as a black magic/Masonic conspiracy that threatens the entire British government.

Remember a few years ago there was a TV show called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, but with it’s feral jungle woman, reptilian lost civilizations, and rampant sorcery, it was much more Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Lost World? This Sherlock Holmes reminds me of that, resembling much more Edgar Rice Burroughs’ outlook on pulp fiction than Doyle’s.

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029/100 Dead-End Drive In (1986)

Continuing my tour through OZploitation I watched Dead-End Drive In, one of the more interesting movies I’ve seen from Down Under. The movie, like Mad Max, takes place after one of those apocalypses where things sorta go to hell, but the government keeps operating. Our main character is mildly ambitious mechanic Crabs (Ned Manning), who borrows his employer’s ’57 Chevy to take his girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) on a date. He decides to take her to the Star Drive In. Once there two wheels are stolen off the vintage car. Crabs chases after the thieves and realizes that it was the police that took his wheels. Crabs tries to report the theft to the only attendant on duty, but the kindly old man doesn’t seem too interested and tells him to come back in the morning.

The next morning Crabs realizes the true purpose Star Drive In. It is in fact a concentration camp, designed to attract the troublesome young people and keep them pacified with junk food and free entertainment. Everyone but Crabs seems completely okay with living in the Drive In, so Crabs is on his own as he formulates an escape plan.

I found this satire pretty entertaining. The acting is not exactly subtle, but the concept really carries the film. It’s like the entire 1980s compressed into an single mold the shape of Australia.

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028/100 The Neanderthal Man (1953)

The Neanderthal Man is an cheap, often inept monster movie, but I found it oddly interesting because it presages so many things about the Bigfoot legend, five years before strange tracks were found at logging sites operated by Ray Wallace. Some of the similarities are probably attributable to the Abominable Snowman stories that were in the press at the time the movie was made, but I think this movie might serve as a bridge from the Abominable Snowman legend to the Bigfoot legend.

The Neanderthal Man opens with narration extolling the beauty of California’s High Sierras. “Fisherman’s paradise and hunter’s haven. Where the defacing hand of civilization has fallen but lightly, and nature’s vestments are displayed in all her rugged, primeval abandon.” This little bit of stage-setting has nothing to do with the plot, as the titular Neanderthal Man is never equated with nature in any way. (In fact, he’s always seen wearing a button-down shirt and slacks!) But this romanticized view of nature is rampant among Bigfoot hunters, many of whom seem to openly envy the fact that their imagined quarry lives in “harmony with nature,” despite its near-human characteristics. Also, all the earliest Bigfoot sightings were in the same part of California where the movie takes place.

The main character is Dr. Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne), an anthropologist with a raging hard-on for a cockamamie theory that our hominid ancestors were as smart or smarter than modern humans. We see Groves defending his theory at a naturalist meeting, complete with the expected chart of hominid skulls including Piltdown Man, because b-movies were slow to get the message that Piltdown Man was a hoax. One of the other attendees at the meeting reasonably points out that Groves’ theory seems to based on nothing other that skull size, and that skull size doesn’t have much to do with intelligence. Groves responds with fury, complains that all the other scientists are way too obsessed with “proof,” and he’ll show them proof!

As it turns out strange things have been happening around Groves’ remote mountain property. People have been seeing an unusual big cat, with tusks. One enterprising resident who spots the cat manages to find a footprint and makes a plaster cast. He takes the cast to Dr. Ross Harkness (Richard Crane), an expert on big cats, who identifies it as a sabretooth tiger. Intrigued, Harkness heads up to the mountain town to see what’s going on.

A note on the plaster cast business. Obviously, starting in 1958, plaster casts of footprints were the major class of evidence proffered for the existence Bigfoot, at least until the Patterson-Gimlin film in the late 1960s. I suppose that plaster casts were made of Yeti footprints too, and the Yeti story was in its heyday right around the time this movie was made. It’s interesting that plaster casts of footprints were quite the little trend in b-movies in the 1950s, I guess inspired by the Yeti. For example, Them! and Forbidden Planet both feature plaster casts of footprints in rather unlikely circumstances.

When Groves finds out Harkness is looking for the cat he responds to this news as he does to everything else – with barely contained anger. He tells Harkness he’s wasting his time looking for a fairy tale, and stalks off to continue his mysterious “experiments.” Harkness stakes out a recently killed animal and bags the sabretooth tiger, but the corpse disappears when he tries to show it to Groves. Meanwhile a humanoid monster is attacking the locals.

No big mystery here that Groves is responsible in a Jekyll and Hyde way, though exactly what he was thinking is never clear. He was apparently regressing both himself and a poor deaf/mute servant into Neanderthals before the naturalist meeting, so why he would have thought that the Neanderthals were intelligent is a mystery. He was also regressing cats into sabretooths, so I’m not sure why he would seem so dismissive of their existence to Harkness.

The Neanderthal Man was obviously made cheap. The Neanderthal mask is maybe a level above a Halloween mask. The sabretooth tiger is even worse. In most shots it’s just a tiger, no fangs visible. Only in a pair of close-ups of a stuffed head do we see the fangs at all.

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027/100 America 3000 (1986)

Is there anything that will kill your career faster than appearing in back-to-back movies about post-apocalytic Amazons? Probably not, as can be attested by Chuck “Automan” Wagner. Actually, being Automan probably didn’t help either. On the plus side, that means Wagner will be around for the Automan/Manimal script I’m trying to sell to the TV networks. Hey, the internet just told me that Manimal crossed over with Night Man, and that Night Man once reused a script (and stock footage) from an episode of The Highwayman! Automan/Manimal/Night Man/Highwayman! Rewrite!

Where was I? Oh yeah, America 3000. So Chuck Wagner plays a guy who escapes from the Amazon society that has enslaved most men after big ones dropped, and he finds a fall-out shelter and manages to bring about peace by pretending to be the President and blowing stuff up. There’s a bigfoot creature for comic relief. Can’t say anymore, I’ve got a script to revise!

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026/100 The Knack …and How to Get It (1965)

In between directing his two Beatles movies Richard Lester directed The Knack .. and How to Get It, and equally trippy piece of future 1960s nostalgia. The plot, such as it is, concerns Colin (Michael Crawford, who neither sings nor wears a mask), a school teacher who greatly admires his roommate Tolen’s (Ray Brooks) success with women. Colin tries to get Tolen to teach him “the knack,” while at the same time a new boarder (Donal Donnelly) suddenly appears and starts painting all the walls of the house white, while Nancy (Rita Tushingham), new to London, shows up on the doorstep looking for the YWCA. None of this is supposed to make sense, but instead act as a rough structure for surreal antics and lighthearted social commentary.

It’s really the lightheartedness that sort of turned me against the movie in the third act. Tolen’s misogyny is bad enough, but towards the end of the film Tolen talks Nancy into a walk in the park, alone, and she faints. After Colin arrives Nancy wakes up and the only word she can say is “rape.” So she goes dancing down the street yelling “rape, rape, rape!” while the guys try to convince he she wasn’t raped. I dunno, maybe in the 1960s rape was a such a taboo subject that even including it in a film proved your counter ulture credentials, but the whole bit really rubbed me the wrong way.

The Knack includes another great score by John Barry. Man, that guy was on a roll in the ’60s.

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025/100 The Lost Continent (1968)

We reviewed this movie for Stomp Tokyo years ago. It was my turn to choose a theme for the weekly movie night with my friends, so I showed The Lost Continent, and my theme is “Movies that traumatized you as a child.” I’m looking forward to a bunch of movies where the dog dies at the end.

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024/100 Attack Girls’ Swim Team vs. The Undead (2007)

With a name like that, how can this movie possibly be bad?

Attack Girls’ Swim Team vs. The Undead is a micro-budget zombie film from Japan, and I have to admire its ambition when compared to similar micro-budget movies from America. The idea of a girls swim team taking on a high school full of the infected has merit, and there are some clever scenes. But there are far more action shots that are totally unconvincing, and the movie lapses into soft-core sex so often that I began to wonder if the filmmakers didn’t have confidence that the zombie part of the movie would keep people’s interest.

The main character is Aki, who transfers to a new high school just as the school nurse is “inoculating” all the students and faculty with what turns to be a zombifying bio-weapon. The only people not turned into cannibals are the girls’ swim team, because the chlorine in the pool prevents infection. Aki also has another advantage when it comes to fighting the undead: she was kidnapped at a young age and trained to be an assassin by a mad genius who also sexually abused her. Aki also realizes that another girl at the school, Sayaka, may be her long lost twin sister, so they… have sex? Okay… Somehow this all ties together, but not in a very convincing fashion. If I ever need proof that reading too many manga can rot your brain, this is the place to start.

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023/100 A Perfect Getaway (2009)

I’m trying to catch up here, and thank goodness for movies like this, where their spoiler-ific nature gives me an excuse not to write much about them! Because I needed an excuse! Yay!

A Perfect Getaway is the story of a newlywed couple (Steve Zahn and Mila Jovovitch) on their honeymoon in one of the more remote areas in Hawaii. They befriend another couple (including Tim Olyphant as a guy who claims to be a special ops soldier), but things get tense when news reaches the group that there may be a serial killing couple in the area.

I think David Twohy’s script here was greatly influenced by the giallo movies of the 1970s, especially the way that after one twist the movie spends 20 minutes on a flashback showing everything that has happened up to that point from another perspective.

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022/100 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Any excuse to put Sienna Miller in black leather and sexy librarian glasses, that’s my motto.

Y’know, I can’t help feeling sorry for Cobra. They’re outmatched in every way, the one cool weapon they do have gets stolen and used by the Joes before they can do anything with it, and their leadership seems to have a psychopathic need to structure all their plans with about 45 extra steps that if skipped could have not only saved Cobra a lot of time, but greatly increased the chances of their plans working.

021/100 One Armed Boxer (1971)

This is another movie I can’t believe I haven’t seen before now. One Armed Boxer is the predecessor to Master of the Flying Guillotine, so we actually get to see how Jimmy Wang Yu’s character loses his arm. Long story short, it gets karate chopped off by an Okinawan martial arts master. An Okinawan martial arts master who for some reason has fangs! I’m not sure if that’s some sort of ethnic slur, but it’s certainly weird.

If you’re a big fan of Flying Guillotine, you’ll be happy to know that besides the vampire karate master there is a full complement of ethnic martial artists, though they’re not as colorful as in the sequel nor are they killed in particularly bizarre fashions. There’s another Yogi, but he doesn’t have stretchy limbs. Instead he walks around on his hands, which somehow hypnotizes his opponents. He also has a finishing move that can only be called the full Moe.

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020/100 The New One-Armed Swordman (1971)

It’s Chang Cheh, it’s David Chiang, it’s Ti Lung, how could The New One-Armed Swordsman be bad? It couldn’t. It rocks harder than Dick Clark’s New Years Eve.

I don’t think the plot is going to be much of a mystery, thanks to the title. David Chiang plays a swordsman who is humiliated by a rival school and cuts his own arm off in shame. Ti Lung plays “Hero Fung,” another swordsman who goes up against the rival school for his own reasons. Fung is killed in just about the awesomest way ever put on film, and Chiang teaches himself one-armed swordsmanship and faces an entire army on a bridge to get revenge.

I really intended to give harping on the homosexual subtext in Chang Cheh movies a pass, but then the following scene happens: Chiang is living with innkeeper and his daughter. Needless to say the daughter is sweet on Chiang. Ruffians kidnap the daughter with the intention of raping her, and Fung, who happens to be passing by, rescues her. Chiang sees this, and congratulates him on his daring. Then they put their arms around each others shoulders and walk away, leaving the emotionally traumatized woman behind.

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019/100 Shinjuku Incident (2009)

Jackie Chan has been talking for years about leaving martial arts behind, and has been making stabs at more dramatic roles every few years since at least Heart of Dragon, but now he actually seems to mean it. Shinjuku Incident, despite having a few fights and action scenes, has no kung fu from Jackie. Jackie plays Steelhead, a Chinese man who emigrates to Tokyo illegally. To a large degree he’s following his girlfriend, but by the time he gets to Japan she’s married to minor yakuza boss. Steelhead falls in with the local Chinese con men, and eventually works his way up to leadership of the Chinese yakuza franchise. Well, it’s not really a franchise, but an offshoot the real yakuza barely tolerate. In any case, you know that the compromises to his morality that Steelhead made to get to the top will come back to haunt him.

I enjoyed the ending, very stylish. Beyond that, not a very memorable film, except for the bizarre get-up they put Daniel Wu (Jackie’s protoge these days) in when his character becomes addicted to drugs.

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018/100 Razorback (1984)

I’m not a big fan of Russell Mulcahy. In fact, sometimes I think I’m the only nerd on the planet who thinks the original Highlander is boring twaddle. But I quite enjoyed Mulcahy’s first real film, Razorback. It’s basically Jaws in the Outback, with a particularly unlikely giant wild boar running around eating babies the dingoes haven’t gotten to yet, and the odd Canadian wildlife reporter. Mulcahy drenches the movie in colored lights and odd editing tricks, which seems like the right approach when the material is so familiar. The other wrinkle is that there are a couple of local jerks who go around attacking people with their armored-up truck. This trope appears in OZ films so often I’m simply going to assume that post-apocalytic gangs are a daily fact of life in Australia.

The movie is only let down by the boar puppet, which makes Bruce look expressive and flexible. Mulcahy isn’t quite able to hide the limitations of his monster, and the climax is a muddle.

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017/100 The Beast of Bray Road (2005)

The Beast of Bray Road has a card at the front that says “Based on a True Story.” Therefore I know that sometime in the last few years a werewolf began killing people in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and a former cop from Chicago teamed up with a cryptozoologist to hunt it down. And after 90 minutes of Californians portraying cheeseheads that are all drunks, wife beaters, drunks, promiscuous, gun nuts, occasionally lycanthropes, and did I mention drunks?, the movie ends with a card that says “Dedicated to the People of the Great State of Wisconsin.” I’m sure the state chamber of commerce will be passing a resolution praising the movie anytime now.

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016/100 Max Payne (2008)

The trailer to Max Payne was pretty confusing, because it made the movie look like Constantine, with Mark Wahlberg fighting dark angels of some sort, but as far as I was aware the video game the movie was based on was a pretty straight not-just-a-cop-but-a-cop-on-the-edge story. As it turns out, there’s a non-supernatural reason for the angels/valkyries in the movie, which is on one hand clever but on the other hand disappointing, because in the end it means the movie is just about people shooting each other.

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015/100 Creature (1984)

Creature is one of the most blatant of the Alien rip-offs, made, I guess, because they knew that Aliens was being made. It’s almost scene-for-scene the same as Alien except instead of the inner threat of an android (though one character is hinted to be an android, but apparently isn’t), there are brain slugs that kill some of the crew members and make the corpses kill more crew members. And the alien has red eyes, so it is totally different from H.R. Giger’s monster. Totally.

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014/100 Seven Women for Satan (1974)

Oh, Seven Women for Satan. I thought it was Seven Women for Santa. Here I was hoping for some good XXXmas porn. (Oh, I hope for sanity’s sake I just coined that term.)

It’s probably not a good sign that I had to read an essay about this movie to figure out what the heck was going on. Count Zaroff (Michel Lemoine, who also wrote and directed) is the descendant of the character of Zaroff from the story “The Most Dangerous Game,” and for some reason his manservant Karl is afraid that the newest Zaroff won’t live up to the illustrious reputation of his human-hunting forebear. This seems odd, because in his spare time Zaroff hunts naked women on his country estate, and murders pretty much any pretty woman he comes across.

The notes to the film also say that the film was banned in France, and that the censorship board’s explanation sounds like that they saw some other movie. I don’t think this movie should have been banned, but the notes claim that the movie is a parody and features a “light touch” makes me wonder what movie they saw. Seven Women for Satan is about as misogynistic as possible. I don’t think any movie that opens with a long sequence where a naked woman is chased through the woods by a dog can be classified as a light touch. All the women in the movie are either stupid, promiscuous (even for France), or submissive, and about the only thing we find about any of them before they die is whether the carpet matches the drapes.

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013/100 To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

Continuing my theme of movies directed by William Friedkin starring future stars of C.S.I. franchises, I watched To Live and Die in L.A., which I was a little surprised I had never seen before. It’s a pretty good flick, but I was struck by what an odd vision of L.A. it creates. L.A. is nothing but bondage and strip clubs and drugs and cops who shoot at non-violent suspects and car chases and people with machine guns. No wonder the erst of the world thinks we’re crazy.

Completely random: Is there a reason those chairs in airports haven’t changed in 25 years?

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